Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Grand Theft Auto goes Latino...Why?

Rockstar Games, creator of the multi-selling Grand Theft Auto Series, have revealed their next installment, GTA "The Ballad of Gay Tony" including a fabulous glitter rainbow font.  Grand Theft Auto 4 received high praise  for its execution of the story and gameplay of Niko Bellic and its' portray of immigrant life in America and New York City.  Even one would say the tired old pun, " Is this our Citizen Kane moment?"  

On the eve of E3, "The Ballad of Gay Tony" has the gaming industry in a buzz tweeting, blogging and podcasting on the next episode of GTA will be.  As of know, it seems Microsoft's $50 million exclusivity deal with Rockstar for two episodic downloadable content was the smart choice.   The announcement has writers/journalists/bloggers praising Rockstars move to include a Latino/Hispanic lead and the word 'gay' in the main title.

Kotaku's Stephen Totilo remarks , "two parties managed to make May 26, 2009 a significant date for Latinos" (the White House announced a first Hispanic/Latino Judge to the Supreme Court that day) as Rockstar named a fictional lead of the new GTA episode.  Both of the news-makers are New York Puerto Ricans or Nuyoricans, and makes complete sense for Rockstar to include a Liberty City Puerto Ricans (Liberticans!) since Liberty City is a fictionalize New York City.  It seems, the writers of Rockstar Games did not try to pigeon hole Latino/Hispanic or Gay and Lesbians into Liberty City, why would they, if in New York why not Liberty City? 

Bitmob's Dan Hsu  applauds the developer with the byline, "Rockstar's Got Balls" including, "Quite impressed that Rockstar doesn't shy away from potentially controversial subject matters." Having a GTA story based on "Gay Tony" may have a share of controversy, to right wing pundits, but gay and lesbians may have a differing opinion if the character is portrayed in a stereotypical manner.  The title may be misleading, "Gay Tony" may not live a homosexual lifestyle, but because of his night life connections inherited the nickname (Latinos love to give weird nicknames).   

Tiny Dancer of questions Rockstar's motive, "First the 'Over the Rainbow' achievement in Bully and now our very own gay-titled DLC episode? Have gay gamers managed to charm their way into Rockstar's heart, or is it the love of controversy that beats beneath Rockstar's ample bosom?"  It is not Rockstar's first time to used a minority as a major protagonist; GTA "Vice City" an Italian American, GTA "San Andreas" an African American, GTA 4 an Eastern European, GTA "Chinatown Wars" an Asian American and now with GTA "Ballad of Gay Tony" a Latino/Hispanic or Puerto Rican.  Lest we not forget Rockstar's "Read Dead Revolver" which the protagonist was one of Native American descent.  Is it controversy what drives Rockstar or do they see the bigger picture, New York, historically, is a collection of different minorities living together, violently and peacefully.  

***In GTA 3 protagonist, I would argue, was a carte blanche protagonist meant for the player (you) to create their own story.***

Rockstar is an innovating developer in the videogame world, we all can agree, but is their motive to portray a different view on American life through their protagonists sincere or are they taking tried and true stereotypical minorities and placing them in the videogame fold?

   Rockstar's own founder details "Ballad of Gay Tony" as, "This episode's focus on high-end night life contrasts with the biker gangs portrayed in The Lost and Damned, whilst giving us a lot of new gameplay possibilities."  Their press releases reveals a bit of the plot, "players will struggle with the competing loyalties of family and friends, and with the uncertainty about who is real and who is fake in a world in which everyone has a price."  If the plot sounds familiar, it is, a movie that dealt with the same night life atmosphere scene was "Carlitos Way ", starring Al Pacino as retired Puerto Rican gangster trying to leave vice and crime behind him, with many scenes taking place at a night club.   

However, a day later, I am press to see significance.  Of course, the date is less significant to American Latino/Hispanics, since Judge Sonia Sotomayor has yet to be approved by the US Senate and no one outside of Rockstar has seen or played the protaganist Luis Lopez in "The Ballad of Gay Tony."  Latinos/Hispanics have given lukewarm response to Judge Sotomayor historical appointment to the Supreme Court .  

The Latino/Hispanic gaming community, however, will be up in arms if Luis Lopez is portrayed as a stereotypical hot blooded Latino lover, well, at least Luis Valdez will.  

As of now, all comments at Kotaku point to indifference.  

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